Yesterday a committee of the Florida Senate unanimously passed Florida SB 1344. The bill -- introduced by Bill Latvala, a Republican senator from Pinellas County -- doesn't have anything to do with campaign finance reform or tourist development taxes or ethics. It has to do with allowing Florida breweries to sell 64-ounce growlers.
Growlers, by the way, are refillable bottles that contain beer. Long before suds were mass-produced and available at grocery stores, they were brought home from the local pub in lidded buckets or bottles. The noise of the CO2 gas escaping sounded like a growl -- hence the name.
The typical size of the modern-day beer growler in 47 states is 64 ounces -- a half-gallon of beer. But because Florida has to be contrary, growlers in the Sunshine State can hold no more than 32 ounces of "malt beverage."
SB 1344 changes that rule. The bill, which was passed by the Regulated Industries committee in a favorable vote of eight to zero, allows for the sale of "individual containers containing 64 ounces" of beer, beginning July 1. Here's the entire bill:
Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
Section 1. Subsection (7) of section 563.06, Florida
10 Statutes, is renumbered as subsection (8), and subsection (6) of
11 that section is amended to read:
563.06 Malt beverages; imprint on individual container; size of containers; exemptions.-- (6) All malt beverages packaged in individual containers sold or offered for sale by vendors at retail in this state shall be in individual containers containing 64 ounces, or a lesser size containing no more than 32 ounces, of such malt beverages.; provided, however, that nothing contained in
(7) This section does not shall affect malt beverages packaged in bulk, or in kegs or in barrels, or in an any individual container containing 1 gallon or more of such malt beverage regardless of individual container type.
Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2013.
But that's not all. Because this is the government at work, this little bill that allows breweries to sell 64-ounce containers of beer (when, mind you, buying two 32-ounce bottles has always been perfectly legal) comes with a five-page "bill analysis and fiscal impact statement." The statement asserts that Florida has a three-tier system for selling alcoholic beverages. Breweries fall under the two license options that allow vendors to manufacture malt beverages for sale directly to consumers. The current law allows malt beverages offered for sale by vendors to be packaged in individual containers no larger than 32 ounces. The study also states that the "national standard size for a growler is 64 ounces" and that "Florida law does not permit the use of a 64-ounce growler."
So what does all of this mean? It means that after one month, two votes, and a five-page study -- funded by tax money that could have been better spent on helping public schools or improving roads -- people in Florida can buy larger bottles of beer that, once opened, are good for only about 48 hours before they go bad.
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Look, I love beer as much as the next gal (maybe more than many of you), and I go to Schnebly Redland's Winery and bring home a few growlers of Big Rod Ale from Miami Brewing Company when I'm there. I really do enjoy the hint of coconut in the brew and the fact that I'm buying local. I'm also greatly anticipating Wynwood and Gravity and all the other breweries that are coming to Miami, and I realize the ability of a small brewery to offer different options to its customers is a good thing and increases the little guy's revenue.
But to have the Florida Senate discuss the merits of a larger container of beer when our economy is in the red is proof of the wastefulness of our government. Come election time, we really need to vote out all politicians who throw our tax dollars to the wind. That's something I can raise a glass to.